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Frozen Shoulder

Frozen Shoulder

Definition

Frozen shoulder is a tightening of the tissue around the shoulder joint. It results in a loss of movement and pain at the shoulder joint.

In frozen shoulder:

  • Active range of motion is lost—You cannot move your shoulder well.
  • Passive range of motion is lost—Someone trying to move your arm at the shoulder joint will find it stiff and difficult to move.

This condition may get worse over time. After a period of time, the shoulder may also improve spontaneously. This improvement is called thawing.

Causes

Frozen shoulder is caused by inflammation and scarring of the soft tissues of the shoulder. This includes the capsule that surrounds the joint.

The cause of the tightening is usually not known.

Frozen Shoulder
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Risk Factors

Frozen shoulder is more likely to occur in women between the ages of 40-65 years old.

Factors that increase your risk for frozen shoulder include:

  • Diabetes, especially with complex regional pain syndrome
  • Thyroid problems
  • Disc problems in your neck
  • Injuries to the shoulder
  • Illness or injury that forces you to keep the shoulder immobile for a period of time
  • Coronary artery and/or lung disease, during which time you do not move the shoulder normally

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Painful shoulder
  • Much reduced movement of the arm at the shoulder joint

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The range of motion in your shoulder will be tested.

Images may be taken of your shoulder. This can be done with:

  • X-rays
  • MRI scan
  • Arthrogram

Treatment

Treatment focuses on:

  • Relieving pain
  • Restoring function and range of motion to the shoulder

Prevention

Frozen shoulder may recur. To help prevent frozen shoulder:

  • Do regular strength training and range-of-motion exercises. This will help maintain a strong and flexible shoulder joint.
  • Seek prompt treatment for a shoulder injury.
  • Do activities that use your shoulder joint regularly.
  • After injury to an upper extremity (such as, hand, wrist, elbow), always move the shoulder through a full range of motion several times a day. This is true even when lying in bed for an illness such as a lung infection.
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